(MENAFN- Gulf Times)
Belgium's Thomas Pieters won his second title in three starts, claiming the Abu Dhabi Championship with a solid display as Rory McIlroy's challenge evaporated at Yas Links Golf Club yesterday.
Pieters, who turns 30 in four days, is expected to rise from No69 in the world ranking to No31 with his sixth win on the DP World Tour.
On a day when the course dried up and conditions were tough because of some tucked pins, he made one birdie and one bogey in an even-par round of 72 to finish on 10-under-par 278.
India's Shubhankar Sharma (71) and Spain's Rafael Cabrera-Bello (70) were tied second one shot behind Pieters, while Frenchman Victor Dubuisson (69) and Norwegian world No7 Viktor Hovland were tied for fourth place at 8-under par 280.
Overnight leader, Scotland's Scott Jamieson, faded away to tied 10th place following a 77.
World No2 Collin Morikawa (75), the highest ranked player in the field for the Rolex Series event, slipped to tied 62nd, while Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy (69), who had crept into the top-five at one point, finished in tied 12th place after three bogeys in his last five holes.
The DP World Tour next moves down the road to Dubai for the Dubai Desert Classic, a back-to-back Rolex Series event.
The big-hitting Belgian hit the front on the first and never looked back, opening up a three-shot lead just before the turn at Yas Links and holding off the challenge of a high-class chasing pack on the way home.
Rolex Series winner Cabrera Bello briefly caught him on the back nine but as those around him stumbled, Pieters kept his cool to finish at 10 under, one clear of Spaniard Cabrera Bello and India's Sharma and two ahead of Dubuisson and Hovland. Defending champion Tyrrell Hatton was then at seven under alongside fellow Englishmen James Morrison and Ian Poulter and Dane Jeff Winther, with Scotsman Scott Jamieson and Major Champion Adam Scott a further shot back.
Pieters becomes the first Belgian to win a Rolex Series event and claims his sixth DP World Tour title just 77 days after he won his fifth at the Portugal Masters.
The victory also sends him back into the top 50 on the Official World Golf Ranking – potentially as high as 31st – and straight to the top of the fledgling DP World Tour Rankings in Partnership with Rolex.
“Winning a Rolex Series, it's as good as it gets in Europe,” he said in a report posted on this lists me, I'm not sure where, but I want to play all of the big tournaments and hopefully this gets me close.
“Top-50 is your strive point and when I jumped out maybe three years ago, I took it badly, but I'm happy to be back again.
“I feel like I've turned the corner and I'm playing really good golf. I'm really in control of my ball flight and it's nice to feel like that and making putts as well. My putting has improved massively and I felt like that's the thing that really kept me going on the weekend.
“I just hope all the juniors back at home are watching this. I used to watch as a kid and think it was impossible for me but then Nico (Colsaerts) came on the scene and started winning. It's stuff like that that inspires kids and hopefully I can do that back home,” he added.
Overnight leader Jamieson surrendered his advantage on the first as he failed to get up and down from a tough position in the sand and when he missed the green again on the second, Pieters led alone after two opening pars. Another missed green and another failure to get up and down then dropped Jamieson two back and Pieters maintained that lead until he put a wonderful tee-shot to six feet at the eighth and moved three ahead.
Cabrera Bello had holed a 27-footer on the third but gave the shot back on the fourth before he made a two-putt birdie on the par-five seventh, with an approach to six feet at the ninth seeing him turn in 34 and trim the lead to two.
Pieters missed a good birdie chance at the tenth and when he did the same at the next and ended up with a three-putt, his advantage was down to one.
Cabrera Bello then found rough off the tee at the 14th but played an excellent recovery and holed from seven feet to join the lead. Sharma had sandwiched a double-bogey after a poor tee-shot on the third with a birdie on the par-five second and a 30-footer on the fifth before three-putting the eighth to turn in 37.
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